To the editors:
I read Neal Pollack's article "The New Prohibition" [October 2] with great interest, because we recently had a vote-dry discussion at one of our community policing meetings. In one of the precincts within beat 2431 (mine, actually), we have three bars and four liquor stores (or groceries licensed to sell liquor).
Conservative? Moi? I don't want to put anyone out of business. The city needs the revenues with all the TIFs being handed out. As I told a neighbor, however, if these establishments relied on people like us to stay in business--people who don't drink every day--they wouldn't be in business.
The fact of the matter is, if the owners/managers were more responsible and didn't serve chronic troublemakers (the defecators, who are loud, start fights, and drop their trash all over our lawns), and sought to expand their business in other ways than serving more alcohol, we'd all be more secure.
Obviously, the way the law is written is a problem: 25 percent of registered voters to vote a whole precinct dry versus 40 percent for an establishment--what deep thinkers came up with this logic?
I went to urban-planning school to come up with solutions to problems like these. In my utopia, there would be a buffer between commercial and residential districts, so drunk patrons would have farther to walk before they despoiled my neighborhood. Also, I'd encourage bars to move to industrial areas, where the noise (and filth) would be absorbed. After all, this is no longer the urban America of the early 1900s; that is, more people have cars, they are not walking to their local tavern and hanging out, and if they are, they appear to have enough money to get totally snockered and disturb the rest of the neighborhood.
One of the dismaying facts of the matter is that (at least in my neighborhood) bar and liquor store owners don't live within walking distance of their establishments. They don't live with the blight they allow their best patrons to cause.
There is no easy solution. Democracy is slow, tedious work, and we can't make people care unless they feel their livelihoods are threatened. One thing we do know, however: we have a lot of people with excess time on their hands in Rogers Park. We know that they can't get jobs, or don't want to. Their hobby seems to be getting high, and then being obnoxious and antisocial to the rest of us. We also know that a miracle occurs when neighborhoods vote themselves dry: the problem folks move away, to neighborhoods that are more hospitable toward them. So, we see, our problem isn't the liquor establishments, but that they serve our problem citizens. What do the liquor establishments propose we do to encourage these problem citizens to go elsewhere?